haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2005, vol 1 no 1

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Ken Jones, Wales

 

Lady of the Lake

"All will be well, and every kind of thing will be well"
~ Lady Julian of Norwich.

The low, tree-fringed island is clamped between an overcast sky and the blackness of the lake. I swing the signal board on its pivot, to show its white face to the ferry. And wait.

Still tied up
a varnished boat
sunk in clear water

A punt appears from the distant ferry cottage among the reeds. They said she was the ferryman's widow and a witch. A large woman, maybe in her sixties. Full breasts hang easily inside a long flower print dress. Bare feet and strong calves planted firmly on the poling platform. Her face sunburnt and rather coarse, with a fine down on her lip. But those her eyes!

She drives the boat out into the lake.

Each thrust of her pole
the surge
the ripple
and the gliding silence

"What brings you to my island, then?"

Already aghast at her, the patrician voice shakes me. It has the deep flavours of a rich old wine. And her isle? I stutter. "Now you ask, I do not know..."

In reply, she holds the dripping pole aloft. Then silence. She towers in the stern. I huddle in the bow, my straw boater tipped over my eyes. And then she begins to sing a wordless song, a kind of crooning in time with the long strokes of the pole. More at ease now, I unroll my tobacco pouch and tamp down the Gold Flake. 

From the cherry wood bowl
across still water
a lingering blue drift

"Two hours ashore", she says. "You'll not need more."

Little remains of the ancient nunnery apart from a roofless chapel-of-ease.

Holy stoup
at a rain drop
the stagnant water trembles

The Foundress was a grand dame who passed her widowed years here as prioress. In the long grass I find a granite grave slab bearing her effigy.

Deeply incised
and lined with moss
she meets my stare

Her isle? In evening sunshine I sit, filled with wonder, in the ruined cloister. And, out of time, I write these lines.

 

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